Friday 1 November 2013

Day 9 Maastricht, NL to Potsdam, DE

We had decided to get up at 10 the next day so we could have a jam with Kees in his practice room downstairs. As per usual we got up late, but still went and had a jam. Kees has a totally cool set up; a beautiful piano, drums and a butt-load of synths. We jammed for about half an hour, a totally great way to start the day. We went back upstairs and wanted to get a nice photo of us all together on my birthday, here's what came out:

We said goodbye to our good buddy Kees and set off on our way to Potsdam. Having a 6.5 hour drive on your birthday isn't always the one, especially when you're running an hour late. We sent a text to Katja (in Potsdam) letting her know that we would be an hour later than we'd hoped and she replied saying that there was no rush!

It was motorways all the way on the 400 mile drive to Potsdam, 300 miles of that being on the same road. By the time we arrived we were feeling tired, smelly and a little bit mental. Tonight we were playing at the Black Flecke, a really cool squat in Potsdam, which is about an hour south of Berlin. We came here to party after our show the last time we played in Potsdam and had an absolute blast. We were greeted by the ever beaming Katja who had prepared and INCREDIBLE meal of soup, salad, mashed potato and baked vegetable parcels amongst other wonderful things. Katja had also made me a birthday cake!

We were playing with an Italian band called Fuzz Orchestra, who had already arrived and were sitting down ready to eat with us. We'd also be playing with them the night 
after in Leipzig, so it was wonderful to find out that they were super nice people and complete dudes to boot. We finished eating and had a beer, we were starting to feel a bit more like human beings. Sam had made my birthday super great by getting everyone we had played for on the tour to sign a card as well as bringing party poppers, some PBR (really great\crap beer from America), candles for the cake and giving me a book on Engrish. What a lad.

We finished dinner and went downstairs to set up the gear in front of the stage. Quite a lot of people arrived and we played at 11. We played quite loud and pretty well, I think we're starting to get into the swing of it now! Finally it was time to relax after a really long day... and by relax I mean have a lot of beers and watch Fuzz Orchestra. It was really nice talking to people after the show, some people had seen us play on our previous tour in Potsdam and other places. It's great to see that people are coming back to see us play. We went to bed at about 5.30am in our bunk beds (bunk beds!). What a rad evening.

Day 8 Reims, FR to Maastricht, NL

Francesco - Possibly the coolest guy in France.
Like every morning so far, we woke up. Francesco and his lovely girlfriend popped out and picked up a cooked chicken from their favourite local shop, as well as some nice fresh bread. We were touching on 'brunch' territory so Francesco enthusiastically suggested we upgrade our breakfast and add pasta into the mix. What a great choice this was. Smashing meal! Francesco also suggested some alcohol to accompany our brunch but we happily declined (on this occasion). We listened to more music which included a band Ségolène & Francesco have together, named 'TRAPS', which we approve of. This would lead the conversation onto actual 'trap' music - a style of hip-hop with a lot repetitive vocal samples. If you imagine a hyper-active child who's just discovered Fruity Loops, vocal sampling and the loop button…. then you're half way there. Not really an appropriate brunch soundtrack, but Introducing Francesco to CLEVER BOY was. (We advise you to go listen for yourselves.)

Ségolène signs Mike's birthday card behind our great brunch
We finished up and headed to the car. Parking in a secure underground car park with a car full of music equipment is great, what isn't so great is when you don't have the only remote to open the gates. Slight problem. Francesco began to work through the long-winded manual process  of opening the gates, but before he could finish his very, very lovely neighbour opened it for us. Absolute winner!

It's a 3 hour drive to Maastricht in The Netherlands. This journey was pretty uneventful, unlike the journey a few days ago from Gent to Rouen when we got stopped by the French police (we failed to mention this in our previous entry). Engine off, keys out and asked to stand against a wall while they checked our papers. A local man in his late 70s had a front row seat as stood in his front door an arms length away, I think he found it rather hilarious as he watched on just laughing. The police dog began to sniff our manly bits and because we're well behaved English boys and don't have anything we shouldn't have, the dog came away without any joy. With a stern, disappointed nod of approval from the dog handler to his colleague, we were told to be on our way. Aaaannnnnd relax.

Arriving to a town you've been to a few times before makes navigating much easier. With ease we arrived at our much loved LBB to the beaming smile of Kees (pronounced 'case' for those who wish to try it). I could literally write on and on about the lad that is Kees, but just understand that he is an absolute top guy and we were excited to catch up with him again. 

Today's dinner was a very tasty nutty, potato and salad combination. We were the only band playing this evening  but afterwards they open  the venue up as a jam night for anyone who wants to turn up and rock out. Apparently it's the same blues, funk songs every week, so having us was a welcomed break for the punters and residents of LBB. The residents of LBB have just produced a photo book documenting the activities happening at  LBB across the course of a year. It's a lovely photo book (which I of course had to purchase) by a very nice gentleman named Bert Janssen, who just so happened to be there that evening. 

We played the show and it was a lot of fun, there weren't too many people there when we started, but by the time we were half way through the place was quite busy. Kees joined us on two older songs; he played drums on 'Webbs' and synth on 'Lungy Media'. After we finished playing we hung around by the bar and chatted to some of the people who live there. When the clock struck 12 it was Mike's birthday so we had a beer to celebrate.

After another great evening at LBB we packing up our gear and heading 5 minutes drive away to Kees' new pad. This man has a lot of great records from all eras in all different styles. As we made our way through Kees' gabber, breakcore and electro collection, we danced, sung and drank  late into the night.

Kees putting his stamp on Mike's birthday card

Thursday 31 October 2013

Day 7 Paris, FR to Reims, FR

No need for an alarm clock this morning… Oh no, no, no! Being licked in the face by a dog will surely do the trick. Wiping the slobber off the face, we got up and headed to the Cardis. Now… if we had thought about the logistics of how our cars were parked the night before, then we wouldn't have had to wait an hour to get the Cardis out and hit the road to Reims - mistake noted. While we waited we had the pleasure of watching 3 friendly dogs having fun. Too much fun perhaps as one decided to urinate on the French bands guitar head. Not cool. We said our goodbyes to the other bands and away we went.

We're getting really good at making sandwiches in the car. Like really good.

Music shop
We intentionally arrived in Reims about two hours early before we were due to be at the venue to see some of the sites, seeing as this is our 4th time in here and we haven't seen any of it! Reims has a pretty big Cathedral named Notre-Dame de Reims and is where the Kings are/were crowned. It's very nice. Reims also has the only place we've seen to have a security guard to monitor the use of the toilets at McDonalds. We didn't see the inside of their toilets but we did make use of their wifi from outside. Continuing our wander round the city we hunted for some food & we found a place that did a very nice chicken sandwich (the guy who served us was a French version of Colin Farrell). Sam had been looking for a place to buy a new bass drum skin so finding a music shop was very handy. The guy gave Sam a massive discount (probably because we are complete lads).


We made our way back to the car and drove round to the venue, we had arrived bang on time (5pm) but were told to come back at 6 when the venue was open. Sam stayed at the car to put his new skin on while I went for a walk. I sat on a bench and had a conversation in French with a man, who proceeded to ask me for money after we finished talking… he left empty handed.

I arrived at the venue at six and Sam had already started to load the gear in. The place we were playing was called L'apparat Cafe and was organised by a really cool guy called Francesco (possibly the coolest guy in France). Francesco had arranged for us to eat at a place a couple of doors down, the two burgers and chips we had went down very well The other two bands playing that night were Chaos E.T Sexual from Paris and Caustic Lips from Reims. Reims is the place we have played most in France so it was nice to see people who have been at previous shows coming to see us play again. Both of the other bands played and were good, by the time the second band finished the place was really busy. We set up and played and it was pretty good, not the best we have played this tour but people were really, really into it which was great.

After the show we packed up and went back to Francesco's flat, he had a secure underground parking garage which meant that we didn't have to unload the gear… cashback! Francesco and his girlfriend (Ségolihe) bought out loads of alcohol that Ségolihe's blind grandfather had made, it was surprisingly nice. Being that we were in the Champagne district and Francesco being a true player, he cracked out a bottle of Champagne to celebrate a successful gig. We sat around listening to records and chatting until about three and then went to bed. The guys from Chaos E.T Sexual had to get up at 5.30 to do a ten hour drive to play their next show in Czech Republic, nutters!

Francesco and Ségolithe set up the Champagne 

Saturday 26 October 2013

Day 5 & 6 Gent, BE to Rouen, FR to Paris, FR

Day 5 Gent BE to Rouen FR
Julie / Nico / Robin. Music. Foods. Cats. check oil and water, air in tyres.

We woke up the next day and were treated to a breakfast of coffee and pastries. We didn't have a show today so we were going to drive to Rouen to stay with our good friend Nico (Seal of Quality), who we have toured with before. We said our goodbyes and set off at around one, Rouen was about four hours away and we wanted to get there in time to cook Nico and his housemates an evening meal for having us stay, and for previous times we've visited. We wanted to buy some Belgium beers because they are super cheap in Belgium (obviously). We went to a supermarket called Colruyt and bought enough food to feed the 5000 and a lot of very good, very cheap Belgium beer. I think we're going to come to one of these supermarkets again on our way back to Calais and STOCK UP!
We arrived at Nico's at about six. It was great to see Nico, Julie,  Robin & their two cats. they were moving out of their really nice farm house where they have been for a the last few years, so everything was in boxes. We spent a couple of days here on our first tour of France and it was really nice to be back, shame it would be for the last time. We cooked a huge meal of pasta and vegetables drank some of the beer and wine we bought. Most of the vinyl records had been packed away and moved to their new homes, so we spent the evening listening to the leftovers, which we actually pretty good. We went to bed at about midnight to the gentle sounds of Devo. I'm glad we managed to get an early night.

Day 6 Rouen FR to Paris FR

Oh, how we enjoyed waking up late after an early night. Another sign we really are ageing! We were in no rush whatsoever today as we were heading to Paris, only a two hour drive away. Easy. Crawling out of our sleeping bags like snails sliding out of their shells, we headed straight for the shower (separately of course) followed by some fresh coffee and croissants prepared by the lovely Julie. We stayed for lunch with the rest of the house, who were still in full swing of packing up the house. To celebrate everyone moving out, lit sparkers were put into bread like candles in a cake and a verse of french song sung to a backing track of Phil Collins. Only after this were we allowed to start eating lunch… awesome.

We eventually said our goodbyes and headed to Paris. The last time we played in Paris, the traffic was such a nightmare that we vowed to never play in Paris ever again. But then we played the show… It was bloody great! So we quickly retracted our bold and definitive statement to never play Paris again, and unanimously agreed (easy when their's only two of you) to play in Paris the next time we toured. The show was put on by Eric, Camille & the really nice guys who make up 'En veux-tu? En v'la!' (who we played for last time) and they surely look after you with their lovely food spread. Delicious! We were disappointed that Camille wasn't wearing his personalised Brian Eno Nike trainers but very happy to be at La Canitne de Belleville.

The other two bands also playing were 'Michel Anoia' from Lyon, France & 'Under the Pledge of Secrecy' from Aachen, Germany. Really nice guys, both playing really fast Grindcore. Everyone was in great spirits and it was a good atmosphere. We smashed through our set with some broken English/French banter along the way. I guess we played well enough to warrant us having to pull a really old song we haven't played in 2 years out the bag to satisfy the hungry French. We surprised ourselves we remembered 'Lungy Media'. Thank god for muscle memory!

Camille without his Brian Eno Nike trainers.
With the night all done, everyone packed up and all headed off to the outskirts of Paris to stay at a squat that would house all 11 of us. We learned that a French man actually really enjoys English food - this is a rarity to hear as most don't enjoy it so much - gravy being his number one. A beer and some table tennis later, we went to bed with smiles on our tired faces from a pretty sweet day.

Day 4 Hechtel, BE to Gent, BE

Many churches. Chips. Icelandic Cats. Rabbit. Turkish shops. Holiday. Charlotte. Nice new house. Great cellar. Great cheap wine. Great cooking. Great cookies. Just great.

Lovely Belgium trees
We got up at about 11 and the guys were cleaning the house, it was in a right state. We packed the car, said goodbye to the guys and got on the road. Gent is only and hour and a half away from Hechtel, so we thought we'd take the time to have a look around the city. The drive was pleasant, Belgium is a really nice country to drive through in the autumn with all the leaves changing colour.

We arrived in Gent in good time and parked the car, the town was really busy as it was a Sunday so we had a bit of tousle finding a space. Gent is a beautiful city, with loads of churches and majestic architecture; I can see why a lot of tourists come here. We took a walk around the city, bought some frites (chips) and had a nice sit down. Even though there was a lot of people milling around it seemed really quiet, I think that this is just Belgium in general. We came back to the car and decided to make our way to the house where we were playing. The show was being organised by a girl called Charlotte who we met last time we were in Gent, she had just returned from a few months in Iceland, moved into a new house and wanted us to play in her cellar. Charlotte greeted us with a beaming smile and welcomed us into her new home. She made us coffee and ate home-made cookies while we relaxed in her kitchen, I don't think we realised how tired we were until we sat down.

Charlotte had rescued four kittens while in Iceland, the person who owned the farm where she was working wanted to kill them, but she managed to bring them all the way back to Gent, giving her sister two and keeping two. Charlotte's were two of the cutest cats of all time, we spent ages playing with them. (They have been given Icelandic names and we have no chance in remembering them - they sounded lovely names though!) We went shopping with Charlotte to get some food for the evening, she lives in the Turkish area of the city so there are loads of good shops to get food and most of them stay open on a Sunday, unlike the rest of France. Charlotte then cooked us a really nice dinner of roast chicken, roasted vegetables and boiled potatoes… a really great meal.

We unloaded our gear and put everything in the empty, bare cellar, with a low the ceiling so it was clear that we wouldn't be able to play as loud as we would normally. Charlotte's friends started to arrive and everyone was really friendly, we sat around, drank and played with the amazing cats. They really liked to go up on your shoulder and sit there like a parrot.

We played at about ten, Charlotte made the room look nice with coloured paper and fairy lights, considering it was a cellar it was quite cosy! We played softer than usual because of the shape and size of the room, but I think it was still okay. After we finished playing we sat up and listened to records with everyone in the lounge and played with the kittens some more, so addictive. One of Charlotte's friends gave us a really cheap, but really nice, bottle of wine to take away with us, good lad. Another great evening.